Chemical reactions 1

May 26, 2006

I am incensed by Sussex vice-chancellor Alasdair Smith's comments on the extraordinary meeting of senate to discuss the plan devised by the School of Life Sciences (LifeSci) to maintain a viable and successful chemistry department ("Sussex v-c urged to quit in wake of chemistry axe row", May 19). Smith began by making it very clear that his recommendation to senate was to reject the LifeSci plan and move to a merger of the chemistry and biochemistry departments.

We had an e-mail statement from the head of biochemistry that there was "no case for an enforced merger in the short term". Despite nearly four hours of debate, largely against the vice-chancellor's proposals, Smith announced that if the senate insisted on backing the LifeSci plan he would "not take senate's advice". This led to great cries from senate members of why on earth they were there.

For Smith to say senate is the voice he listens to, and that he had its overwhelming endorsement, is simply not true. The senate was given no choice but to agree to the merger to save any kind of chemistry department at Sussex. Smith may have won the vote, but at what cost?

Kerith Harris
Sussex University AUT

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